Google’s Glass Ceiling

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25 users commented

Hey Dixon, I’ve kinda experienced the same stuff with a couple of my sites. What mostly would get me through these barriers is a Major DIGG, or an explosive amount of traffic for a few days, that could be something to work on I guess…

said Roy Huiskes on October 17th, 2008 at 10:53 am

>fully transparent pun
Yeah, that would have been me, my missus can always see straight through me too!

At the back of my conspiracy riddled mind I’d noticed my stats have stayed surprisingly consistent given all the things which can affect traffic on a daily basis so when Dixon asked a light definitely went on in my head – it needs a good de-frag in there.

Great to see you again dude, great blog, we must do links sometime ;-)

said Joe Connor on October 17th, 2008 at 12:08 pm

Roy – I’m glad I’m not just dreaming it on my own. A Digg is something that might take the site into new territory… from old and stale to suddenly relevant content?

Joe – I didn’t want to name and shame… :)

said Dixon Jones on October 17th, 2008 at 12:24 pm

I actually think it has a bit more to do with the amount of traffic google knows you have, maybe Toolbar data or something…

said Roy Huiskes on October 17th, 2008 at 3:13 pm

Could it be connected to sites that are so indistinguishable that Google’s algo just plays with the serps because there is no standout winner?

Over time you’d expect markets to be saturated with sites all ‘doing the right things’, all well linked, all just…..the same.

Just a thought.


said RedEvo on October 17th, 2008 at 8:18 pm

Surely would make sense as you suggest for Google to always show the ‘top sites’ in that particular search niche.

However yes, I have for a long time always wondered about the ‘consistency of daily visit figures’. Over the longer term traffic steadily grows yes, I think with more and more people becoming searchers each day then any decent site should get this ongoing increase anyway but it is amazing to see daily visits within 10% of each other usually as oppose to much bigger swings.

I also have noticed that these ‘ceilings’ (that works well as a vision) do seem to change as you break thru them. e.g you may average 50 visits a day for months, these daily figures would fluctuate only slightly.. 49, 48, 51, 50, 51, 48

Then as you come across these jumps (for whatever reason) it may become average of 70 visits a day with figures like 68, 71, 70, 69

This is a pattern I have seen ongoing.

How can things be that consistant? I just dont see how it is possible without some mechanism in place as it would be if based on PPC budgets for example. That sort of ‘throttling’ would fit the picture pefectly.

said Clive on October 17th, 2008 at 11:26 pm

That’s what I was seeing too, Clive. However – someone has since suggested I get my maths head on and do some decent analysis. So I did. On the Murder Mystery Games site I compared all the Google traffic with the overall (Daily Unique) normalized traffic to look at an F-Test – which is the probability that the two data sets are not statistically different.. If Google WAS throttling traffic, then we would expect a HIGH f-test score (95% plus) whist if if it was really really close, we’d get a low score (5% or less). Here’s my data:

_________________Google__All DUs__Normaiized Daily Uniques
Week 28, 2008_____3,235___ 4,447___3178.298039
Week 29, 2008_____3,104 ___4,346___3106.112723
Week 30, 2008_____3,342___ 4,649___3322.668672
Week 31, 2008_____3,059___ 4,279___3058.227414
Week 32, 2008_____3,289___ 4,430___3166.148036
Week 33, 2008_____3,095___ 4,319___3086.815658
Week 34, 2008_____2,992___ 4,212___3010.342105
Week 35, 2008_____3,022___ 4,367___3121.121551
Week 36, 2008_____3,129___ 4,447___3178.298039
Week 37, 2008_____3,121___ 4,515___3226.898054
Week 38, 2008_____3,279___ 4,540___3244.765707
Week 39, 2008_____3,464___ 4,801___3431.304


F-test 0.518383903 or 51.8%

Sadly, with a score of 51.8% my test is decidedly inconclusive. However the site doesn’t seem to be getting the same “ceiling effect” that I was seeing last year, so it would be interesting if a few people who felt they MIGHT be experiencing a glass ceiling were up to the challenge to do a similar formula (using Excel or similar) on your own data.

Your dailies look very much like the sorts of similarities I had in mind when I was thinking about this. Maybe I should do that test on someone else’s data.

said Dixon Jones on October 18th, 2008 at 11:19 am

Well it’s entirely possible given that Google have manipulated SERPS for years now. I suppose once the Google trend is out of the way and we all search via social groups, this won’t seem that important to us then. Great post though

said seouk on October 19th, 2008 at 9:14 am

Google changes it’s rules all the time to keep the top marketers from over achieving…so I would not be surprised at all if that was happening.

said Marc Marseille on October 19th, 2008 at 10:34 pm


Yes defiantly seen this, have seen two site stuck with the same traffic for over 12 months also seen one site were traffic jumps about every 3 months then has a drop off and then jumps up again.

said chris on October 20th, 2008 at 9:31 am

The Google Glass Ceiling – http://tinyurl.com/5hl83v

said sjachille (Sante) on October 20th, 2008 at 10:41 am

The Google Glass Ceiling – http://tinyurl.com/5hl83v

said sjachille (Sante) on October 20th, 2008 at 10:41 am

This Glass ceiling theory is new – any thoughts ?? http://tinyurl.com/5hl83v

said sjachille (Sante) on October 20th, 2008 at 11:18 am

This Glass ceiling theory is new – any thoughts ?? http://tinyurl.com/5hl83v

said sjachille (Sante) on October 20th, 2008 at 11:18 am

I’ve noticed several big sites that seem to have very similar amounts of traffic each month regardless of seasonal variations in that vertical. I’m not convinced that Google throttles the traffic but am open to the idea.

said vote for me on October 21st, 2008 at 12:47 pm

Here’s a related point which may help confirm the basic idea of Google limiting the potential of a site (or a whole niche).
As anyone with experience in p0rn can tell you, there’s definitely a glass pagerank ceiling for sites in the adult industry.
It’s close to impossible to break the PR 7 mark and a PR 5 is rare. This is true for sites with hundreds or thousands of links.
It’s like Google uses a curve when grading links for PR and adjusts it by industry type. This is all anecdotal of course, so just surf a bit and see for yourself :)

said boaz sasson on November 26th, 2008 at 4:01 pm

I agree with this article. I started a site recently and I am pretty sure that google throttles traffic to just under 1000 visitors/day. Why? Because my position for the same keyword moves throughout the day. If anyone wants to see stats, I’m happy to show them.

As to Google capping the PR of certain niches… I have proof of that. Adult is one industry, and there are others which I won’t mention here.

said ocagency on December 19th, 2008 at 5:21 pm

Bit confused on the theory here (well it can only be a theory).
Are you saying that after a certain amount of traffic google cap you.
so in effect seo or search engine optimisation works as a negative by generating you traffic

said seo on April 6th, 2010 at 1:56 pm

I am saying it might do, in certain circumstances. BUt as you say – it was only a theory. Alcohol was also involved and the post was written in October 2008… so I would find some more research (and some more recent research) before you add it to the SEO bible! :)

said admin on April 6th, 2010 at 4:18 pm

I have noticed this myself, and the only reason I found this blog post was through a search “seo glass ceiling”. I have had various sites over the past few years that, for some reason, will not climb up past a certain point.

Thankfully, these points have usually been #6/#7 so page one at least, but beyond that proves to be VERY difficult indeed, if not impossible.

said herodigital on August 10th, 2010 at 1:11 pm

I have a theory. The more people that click on you, the higher you will rise because you are what people are looking for.
Is this possible?

said london on January 3rd, 2011 at 6:35 pm

Sure that’s not only possible, but has been a factor in search algorithms ever since “Direct Hit” in the nineties. Google use click through rate as a major factor in the paid search rankings. Less obvious on the organic, to prevent the potential for abuse.

said admin on January 3rd, 2011 at 7:10 pm

Does Google ever stop changing their rules, Every year its somthing new. It hard to keep up.

said rubbish clearance on July 22nd, 2011 at 5:27 pm

This is all confusing to me. I have had a number of so called SEO experts tell me two different things. Everyone has different views and how Google works.

said Mark on July 22nd, 2011 at 5:31 pm
said Trackbacks on December 5th, 2016 at 6:37 pm

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